In India, the Christian run institutions happen to be the second largest education provider after the government run institutions. We have truly pioneered in promoting education in the country, starting in 1542 with the starting of Santa Fe School on the influence of St. Francis Xavier who pioneered Christianity in India. Today as per CBCI schools data (2018), in India there are about 54937 Catholic run educational institutions apart from guestimated 10000 to15000 educational institutions run by other Christian denominations, totalling to 70000+ Christian educational institutions. That’s not a small number for a paltry 2% of the total population of the country, with more than 1,50,000 consecrated Christian men and women dedicated to change and transform education. That truly calls for recognition as an institution which has supported nation building for almost more than 500 years. Surprisingly some of the notable personalities in India and abroad have passed through the gates of Christian run institutions and many of whom have contributed immensely to the world both socially, politically, and economically.
Great job done indeed! We have contributed immensely in every field of education with about 12 Universities, 24 Management institutes, and over 300 professional colleges. We have actually educated massive number of people with the best education possible through pure passion and dedication of teachers, staff and supportive church institutions. A simple arithmetic would help us know how many lakhs of people have passed through our prestigious institutions in the last hundreds of years.
To the reader: I fully endorse the great work our educational institutes are doing. No doubt about it. I am only questioning: is there a need to change our approach to education and alter our missions a bit to suit current realities.
But have we really added value in terms of transformation and change? The article by Varghese Alengaden (IC issue 30-6 Oct) calling for introspection on the overall approach of the Church on education does answer some of the questions. We may have educated millions of people in India. But where are the people who got educated? Where have they gone? If they are in India, have they influenced India enough by living the values they learned in our institutions in terms of respecting diversity, inclusion, respect for religions, respect for every citizen irrespective of class, caste, religion? Have they stood for and influenced people of India for more tolerance, harmony, peace, love, joy and happiness? Have they influenced policies and programs of the country? What impact have they created for social transformation and social change? Or in other words, have we truly impacted the students who passed through our gates on values of love, joy, peace, harmony, diversity, inclusion, equality which we wanted to impart as part of our education? If we did, did they in turn impact the society? If they did, can we see its impact on our country and society today?
Sometimes when I speak to Christian lay teachers, nuns and priests, I hear them saying that they have been teaching values of love, joy, peace, harmony, respect, diversity, inclusion to all the students, but when I question about the practice of these values by the alumni in real life, I get a rather subdued answer. My question is: did they at all imbibe the values we teach and preach? Did they ever appreciate what was taught to them? Mostly the answers are rather low in tone and spirit.
Simple observations (the naked truth) tells us that whatever education we imparted may not have borne the fruits we intended, for creating a society of equality, justice, harmony and peace. So, does it mean the efforts were not enough or not sufficient enough to impact? Does it mean our education has no relevance? Does it mean we are not able to add value? Does it mean we have failed to impact with right inputs? Is it true that we have really no time and space to impact behaviour as our time goes in covering portions and getting students ready for exams? Or by any chance, does it mean we have been only preaching and not practicing enough to impact other’s behaviour? Any impact on another comes out of exemplification. But to the contrary, what we are currently witnessing is a trend by which not many people from the so called ‘Christian educated class’ of people ever stand for human rights and practice the values that were taught to them.
To a silent observer and analyst, it looks as though we have failed. Our policies have failed. Our approach has failed. Our education has failed. But wait a minute…has it really failed? Has it not? If yes, even fully or partly, are we willing to own it and change the approach? Can we not introspect? Can we ask some difficult questions before defending?
I was just reading about the recent CBCI conference on education in Guwahati, wherein the community has requested the government for inclusion of Christian voice in the framing of policies and guidelines at the national level. Again, to my mind it should have been an automatic process of inclusion without our asking for it as we are the largest body providing education in India. As for the silent observer, Church being the second largest educator of the country should have been bestowed an automatic bench at the proceedings of the education policy formation. But that is not the case today and never was. We are now putting forward our views, pleading for a place. Does it mean we have become irrelevant? Does it mean our methods are irrelevant to today’s society?
These are not easy questions to answer. These are questions to be reflected upon on our policies on education and approach to change and transformation. We need to quickly ask: what is the purpose of our running these institutions? Is this the right way and method? If for values to be imparted, then where are the millions of people who got educated gone? Are they not able to influence the society? Why are they not standing up for human rights? I am afraid that thousands of priests, nuns and lay people who are involved in the process of education in Christian run institutions, may find themselves asking these questions with no answers!
Let me repeat the introspective questions we need to ask without brushing them under the carpet: Have our motto of spreading love, joy, peace, forgiveness, harmony, equality, respect, been achieved through the medium of education? Is education the right approach? Has education as a means for human development and transformation been achieved? Have the sacrifices made by millions of well-intentioned teachers, educators, priests, nuns, paid dividends? Has the society changed for the better? Have human values been restored? Have been failed in impacting others due to lack of exemplification or due to lack of conviction in our ways and approach?
May be its time to introspect on our very purpose and means of achieving what we want to achieve. If we have answered yes to the above set of questions, then it’s worth the effort. If not let’s introspect: Why are we doing what we are doing and still continue to do despite evidence pointing to a success or failure of the efforts? Is there a different way of doing our work other than education as a method of transformation of society and individuals? Anyone today can run an educational institute…. How are we different? What’s the difference? WE TRULY NEED TO INTROSPECT OUR MISSION, METHODS & OUTCOMES.
(A counsellor with expertise in Spirituality, Behavioural science, Leadership and Management Consulting, the writer’s ministry also includes Heal Your Life, Mindfulness and Self Compassion training for the church and its community. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)(Published on 04th November 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 45)